Marital Conflict and Children: An Emotional Security Perspective

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From leading researchers, this book presents important advances in understanding how growing up in a discordant family affects child adjustment, the factors that make certain children more vulnerable than others, and what can be done to help. It is a state-of-the-science follow-up to the authors' seminal earlier work, Children and Marital Conflict: The Impact of Family Dispute and Resolution. The volume presents a new conceptual framework that draws on current knowledge about family processes; parenting; attachment; and children's emotional, physiological, cognitive, and behavioral development. Innovative research methods are explained and promising directions for clinical practice with children and families are discussed.

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Editorial Reviews

Counselling Children and Young People

"This is a very well-researched and interesting textbook, containing a lot of thought provoking information."--Counselling Children and Young People
The Independent Practitioner

"Very skilled and very detailed....At the end is an elaborate appendix of coding systems and methodology, which I found to be of great interest. There are 42 pages of references and an in-depth index covering everything you could want to know about parenting, child development, and behavior."--The Independent Practitioner
From the Publisher

"Cummings and Davies have done it again! This is a superb book, combining years of programmatic research with keen insights and a constant eye toward practical applications for practitioners and the parents they work with. Marital Conflict and Children is 'must' reading for researchers and practitioners in psychology, family therapy, and associated disciplines, as well as a great text for upper-division undergraduate and graduate classes."--Robert E. Emery, PhD, Department of Psychology and Director, Center for Children, Families, and the Law, University of Virginia

"Rapid advances in research have illuminated the fascinating and complex connections between marital conflict and the well-being of children. Here, noted scientists Cummings and Davies pull together diverse strands of theory and evidence to offer a concise and masterful summary of this burgeoning literature. Broad in vision and tightly organized, this is the book that scholars, students, and practitioners will want to read for a state-of-the-art understanding of how marital dynamics influence child development, and for a glimpse of what the next generation of work holds in store."--Thomas N. Bradbury, PhD, Department of Psychology and Codirector, UCLA Relationship Institute, University of California, Los Angeles

"The influence of marital relationships on parenting and on children's development is an issue of long-standing interest to developmental scientists, counselors and clinicians, school personnel, and policymakers. Cummings and Davies rightly regard the child’s developing emotional security or insecurity as critical to understanding this process. This informative, well-written and engaging work explicates the theoretical foundations of emotional security, reviews research on the topic, and presents new findings. The authors' analysis should be taken seriously by all concerned with the well-being of children and families. Academics and practicing professionals will encounter a wealth of insights, and advanced students in psychology and family relations will be brought up to speed on the latest research in this area."--Jay Belsky, PhD, Director, Institute for the Study of Children, Families, and Social Issues, Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom


"Those who own the earlier title will want to add this new volume, which will be useful in both the study and the practice of family psychology. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals."--Choice

"Those who own the earlier title will want to add this new volume, which will be useful in both the study and the practice of family psychology. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals."--Choice
Choice Reviews

"Those who own the earlier title will want to add this new volume, which will be useful in both the study and the practice of family psychology. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals."--Choice Reviews

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Product Details

Meet the Author

E. Mark Cummings, PhD, is Professor and Notre Dame Endowed Chair in Psychology at the University of Notre Dame. His research focuses on relations between family processes and child development. Dr. Cummings has served as Associate Editor of Child Development and on the editorial boards of numerous other journals.

Patrick T. Davies, PhD, is Professor of Psychology in the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences at the University of Rochester. Like Dr. Cummings, Dr. Davies also studies relations between family processes and child development. He is Associate Editor of Developmental Psychology and Development and Psychopathology.

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Table of Contents

I. New Directions in the Study of Children and Marital Conflict
1. Marital Conflict and Risky Families 
2. The Emergence of Process-Oriented Approaches: Emotional Security Theory
II. Child Effects of Exposure to Marital Conflict
3. Identifying Constructive and Destructive Marital Conflict
4. Testing Process-Oriented Models of the Direct Effects of Exposure to Marital Conflict
III. Contextualizing Marital Conflict
5. The Role of Parenting in the Context of Marital Conflict: Indirect Pathways and Processes
6. Contextual Vulnerability and Protective Models
7. Development over Time in Contexts of Marital Conflict
IV. Future Directions
8. Applications of Findings and Translational Research
9. Beyond the Marital Dyad: From Bowlby to Political Violence
Appendices: Coding Systems and Methodology
A. Conflict in the Interparental System (CIS)–Observational Coding
B. Security in the Interparental Subsystem (SIS) Scale–Child Report
C. Security in the Marital System–Parent Report (SIMS-PR) Scale
D. Advanced Measurement and Research Design Issues for a Process-Oriented Approach

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